The University of Sussex

Syllable-based morphology for Natural Language Processing

L.J. Cahill

Doctoral Thesis. This thesis addresses the problem of accounting for morphological alternation within Natural Language Processing. It proposes an approach to morphology which is based on phonological concepts, in particular the syllable, in contrast to morpheme-based approaches which have standardly been used by both NLP and linguistics. It is argued that morpheme-based approaches within both linguistics and NLP, grew out of the apparently purely affixational morphology of European languages, especially English, but are less appropriate for non-affixational languages such as Arabic. Indeed, it is claimed that even accounts of those European languages miss important linguistic generalizations by ignoring more phonologically based alternations, such as umlaut in German and ablaut in English. To justify this approach, we present a wide range of data from languages as diverse as German and Rotuman. A formal language, MOLUSC, is described which allows for the definition between syllable-sequences, and accounts of non-trivial fragments of the inflectional morphology of English, Arabic and Sanskrit are presented, to demonstrate the capabilities of the language. A semantics for the language is defined, and the implementation of an interpreter is described. The thesis discusses theoretical (linguistic) issues, as well as implementational issues involved in the incorporation of MOLUSC into a larger lexicon system. The approach is contrasted with previous work in computational morphology, in particular finite-state morphology, and its relation to other work in the fields of morphology and phonology is also discussed.

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